Technical writing makes many people cringe. Not just those who have to read it. Even those who are supposed to write it. Read on for a few tips to make technical writing easier on both parties.
1) Why technical writing can be so hard to read
Engineers don’t usually see themselves as creative writers. And of course, there are limits to what degree they ought to be creative. They do need to stick to the facts.
But that doesn’t mean that the facts need to be presented in a tedious and boring way, at least to the degree that’s possible.
Writing about nuclear physics in a clear and accessible way while covering all the facts can be quite a challenge. I wouldn’t know. I have never attempted to write or even read about nuclear physics.
But when it comes to writing about cleaning up oil spills or preventing them, or about how to protect your employees and yourself from noxious substances that you may have around your facility, there’s no need to be unnecessarily obscure. Those things can be written about in a way that will actually keep people reading and make them understand what it’s all about. Even if not everyone will find your materials scintillating reading, it should at least hold the attention of those people who need to know that information.
2) So what do you need keep in mind to make technical writing easier on your readers?
A) Consider your audience
That may seem obvious, but it’s not always obvious or easy to remember when you’re dealing with a complex subject and are under deadline pressure. Do it anyway. Your readers will thank you.
So what should you consider? Are you writing for specialists or intelligent lay people. Are you writing for users who need to understand a certain process? Or are you even writing for someone whom you want to persuade to take certain action.
B) Write to be understood by your audience
If you write for an insider and fellow techie, you can use jargon, which is a type of specialized language that will make communication among insiders more efficient. However, it will also make it harder for outsiders to understand what you’ve written.
So if you’re writing for a lay audience or other people who are not specialists in that subject area, focus on being very clear and very explicit. And about that technical jargon? Either avoid technical terminology as much as possible, and if it’s not avoidable, at least explain words your audience may not be familiar with. The same is even more true for abbreviations. If you must use them at all, always spell them out the first time.